Protesters with air horns disrupted last night’s MinnRoast, the fundraiser at the State Theater for the independent news site MinnPost [dislaimer: I am a financial contributor to MinnPost], after Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges used an incident during the 4th Precinct protests as the setting for a joke about her husband.
— Asiniiwiikwe (@ziibiing) November 19, 2015
At Friday night’s show, Hodges, who has won plaudits for comedic timing at previous MinnRoast events, was in the middle of a skit involving quizzing the audience with a series of true-false questions, when she used the episode as the foundation of her joke.
“True or false?” Hodges began,asking whether you ,”should answer the door” when a group of
protesters demonstrators ring your doorbell late at night.
With the largely white (and DFL-leaning) audience shouting answers when Hodges said, “If you’re my husband… true.” Hodges then described the incident, noting the existence of a YouTube video, and saying “I wasn’t home; I was working,” suggesting she was flabbergasted that her husband let the protesters in. [Note: The mayor’s office notes she did not use the word protesters. See update below.]
Hodges said she called her husband numerous times to see if he was alright, but he did not answer.
Later, the mayor said, she asked her husband why he didn’t answer the phone.
“I was in the middle of a conversation,” he told her, to the roar of the audience at the State Theatre.
Then the air horns began and protesters in the balcony began shouting. [Note: The mayor’s office notes the protest erupted 3 minutes later. See update below.]
“This is not a joke,” a man said. “A man is dead.”
Hodges did not appear stunned by the catcalls, but deflected the protest by saying she supported the right to speak. “And this is not a true-false question,” she said, the audience roaring its approval. [Note: Transcript of the mayor’s response below.]
“We have heard you and now we are going on with the show,” she said.
“I have more jokes. Want to hear them?” she asked.
The crowd did.
Later, protesters similarly interrupted Rep. Keith Ellison (DFL-Minn.) while he was singing and playing his guitar. He had made no reference to the protest over Jamar Clark’s killing.
Having earlier invited the audience to clap along with his song, the crowd clapped louder when the protests began.
Near the end of the show, Sen. Al Franken (DFL-Minn.) was interrupted during his monologue with air horns and catcalls.
“I think Betsy did a fine job,” he responded, as the protesters were led out of the theater. “This has been a rough issue for this city and this country.”
After a pause and showing his comedic timing, Franken continued.
“And now back to the jokes.”
[Update 7:49 a.m.] – Hodges spokesperson David Prestwood responds:
We haven’t had the opportunity to meet yet. My name is David Prestwood, and I’m the Communications Director for Mayor Betsy Hodges. I read your Newscut article on MinnRoast, and I was pretty shocked by the way it read.
Let me start by providing you with the actual transcript of what the Mayor said about her husband:
“True or False: when demonstrators show up at your home unannounced, it is a good idea to let them in. That’s a trick question. If you’re my husband, the answer is true. If you’re me, the answer is ‘He did what?’ So for those of you who don’t know, during the occupation of the 4th Precinct there was a night when demonstrators came to my home. I wasn’t there. I was actually working. But my husband let them in and chatted with them. You can watch it all online. It was livestreamed, and you can watch it. But when I found out that they were there, I dialed my husband over and over frantically, as you might imagine, as any wife would. When I asked him later why he hadn’t answered the phone my husband, god bless him, said, ‘I was in the middle of a conversation.'”
First, in your article, including the headline, you repeatedly use the words “protest” and “protestors.” Those are your words – the Mayor never used them. You also mention in the comments that you “cannot change how the mayor characterized it because it’s a direct quote.” This is simply untrue. She didn’t use either word the entire night. I don’t understand why you would represent otherwise.
Secondly, you follow the conclusion of your representation of the joke about her husband with, “Then the air horns began and protesters in the balcony began shouting.” This simply isn’t the case – the interruption was four minutes and three seconds later. That’s the bulk of her entire remarks. The story about her husband was the fifth “true/false” question she asked, and the interruption began in the middle of the seventeenth. I can’t understand why you would indicate some kind of immediate connection both in the headline and the article. As you note, Congressman Ellison and Senator Franken were interrupted as well. It was clear that the interruption was not in response to anything the Mayor said but rather pre-planned. People brought in air horns. It was happening no matter what the Mayor’s remarks were.
Third, you wrote, “Hodges did not appear stunned by the catcalls, but deflected the protest by saying she supported the right to speak. “And this is not a true-false question,” she said, the audience roaring its approval. “We have heard you and now we are going on with the show,” she said. “I have more jokes. Want to hear them?” she asked.”
Somehow – and I cannot imagine why – you managed to leave out the meat of what she actually said in response. For the record, that was, “It’s been a tough, emotional few months in Minneapolis for everybody. I won’t even make it a true or false question. And I’m grateful for everybody who reminds us that there is much more to do about police-community relations, and about racial equity, including the demonstrators inside this theater, because there is more to do. I am proud of us as a people and as a city that we are sticking with this difficult conversation, engaging with each other, challenging each other, challenging me. Listening to each other carefully and respectfully. It is hard, and it is painful, but it is necessary.”
The later quote you excerpted from was, “We are listening, and we have heard you, and now we are going on with the show. So thank you everybody for being here, thank you everybody for respectfully being a part of this conversation.”
You cropped out every single part of her response that indicated she was listening, taking their concerns seriously, and dedicated to continuing the conversation and finding solutions. What you left makes it look like she blew it off completely, which could not be further from the truth.
All of this makes it look to me like you’re expressing a viewpoint rather than reporting the facts. Whether or not you thought her story was funny isn’t relevant – you misrepresented how the entire situation happened. And your article and your first tweet are now being used all over social media to blast the Mayor for making light of the occupation – something she absolutely did not, and would not, do.
The tweet I’m referencing was, “Mayor of Mpls makes joke about Jamar Clark protest at #MinnRoast to catcalls from protests. “A man is dead,” they shout.”
She absolutely did not make a joke “about Jamar Clark protest.” She didn’t mention Jamar Clark. She didn’t say “protest.” She told a story about her husband inviting demonstrators who went to her house to come inside. I’m sure you can see the difference in those two statements, and you have seen the huge gulf between how they’re taken by readers. And the joke she did make, she didn’t make to catcalls. Again, the interruption was more than four minutes later.
I’m writing to get an explanation and to give you the opportunity to correct the record. I’m happy to talk further, and you can contact me using the info below.
Related: MinnRoast Finally Goes Into A Ditch (Nick Coleman on Medium)